Big Opportunity

The trade of Ryan O’Marra opens up opportunities for some OKC Barons forwards. Tanner House–an Alberta boy from Cochrane with a hockey resume that includes stops in Canmore, Penticton and Orono, Maine–has earned praise from his coach for 2-way play and attention to detail. The problem for Tanner House and this year’s AHL prospects: goals.

  • Barons coach Todd Nelson on House "He’s a pretty good force. He’s a big part of our penalty-kill. Tanner’s been a pretty sound hockey player for us all year. Our PK’s where it’s at because of guys like him performing well.”

Nelson told me earlier in the season that he felt one of the strengths of the Barons team was quality and depth at center, which at that time included O’Marra, Josh Green, Chris Vande Velde and  House. The issue at that time was consistency, and with O’Marra gone House should get more 5×5 chances and an opportunity to show well offensively. He needs them. Badly.

And he isn’t alone.

The gap between "AHL veterans" and "young prospects" and their production tells a story. There just isn’t anyone emerging from the group of prospects, meaning the Oilers are unlikely to increase the roles played by the prospects anytime soon.

 

Linus Omark is back, and that means some high octane offense in OKC. Here are the leading scorers among forwards in OKC since January 1st. As you can see, the top tier has very few prospects and a lot of those AHL vets:

  • Ryan Keller, 14, 5-8-13 +10
  • Mark Arcobello 16, 6-5-11 +5
  • Phil Cornet 14, 6-4-10 +5
  • Hunter Tremblay 16, 6-4-10 +4
  • Josh Green 7, 2-6-8 +5
  • Magnus Paajarvi 8, 1-5-6 -1
  • Linus Omark 2, 2-1-3 +2

The good to very good prospects (Paajarvi, Omark) are just passing through. I doubt either spends a lot of time in OKC next season. The two pleasant surprises are Cornet (20+ goals on the season from a depth pick) and Hunter Tremblay. Tremblay is long in the tooth for a prospect but has been coming on and may well be the most pleasant surprise of the new year.

  • Teemu Hartikainen 13, 2-5-7 +1
  • Curtis Hamilton 14, 3-1-4 +4
  • Chris VandeVelde 15, 1-3-4 +3
  • Antti Tyrvainen 15, 1-3-4 +2
  • Tanner House 14, 0-2-2 +1
  • Tyler Pitlick 7, 0-1-1 +2

Here are the rest of the prospects and you’d like to see more from all of them. The Oilers have all kinds of holes in Edmonton, and all of these kids has an opportunity (even a guy like Tyrvainen). However, if you’re struggling to score in the AHL then getting the call to the NHL isn’t going to come.

Teemu Hartikainen’s season is a huge concern. Even considering injuries, his inability to build on last year’s impressive season is a significant warning sign. Winning games in OKC has its benefits, but developing prospects is job 1.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Generally speaking, you can assume that the new pro’s will take some time to adjust to the speed of the game, the size and experience of the opponent and the crazy travel schedule. From January 1 through season’s end, the young Oilers need to take steps forward and so far there’s not a lot of evidence.

More importantly, a guy like Teemu Hartikainen—who did adjust last season to AHL level play–has stagnated at a time when he could be emerging with the big club. Omark has been injured, so he’s a different case. All of the forwards who should be considered prospects (that’s eveyone on the list above save for Keller, Arcobello, Green) need to close strong.

It’s dangerous to draw conclusions during the season and I do believe that splits (first and second half) can tell us a lot about prospect’s progress. So far this season in OKC, Phil Cornet is the only young forward prospect taking it to the limit.

That needs to change, and with the trade of O’Marra some at-bats are shaking loose. I’ll be interested to see which prospect gets the push.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Do you think Khabibulin has shown enough to be able to move his contract at the deadline? I’m hoping so. I would love to see us acquire a young, serious goaltending prospect. He wouldn’t have to be NHL ready this year, but he should really be ready for next season, in a perfect world. Danis or Leneveu could back up Dubnyk to see what he does the rest of this season.

    I could really see Jonathan Bernier or Anders Lindback coming here. It’s asking too much to pry Markstrom out of Florida, but given Jack Campbell’s struggles early on, might that be possible? If so, do you even want him? (I recognize there is no way he plays up with the big club next year though.)

    UPDATE: I was thinking the fact that we have Tyler Bunz, who is a solid prospect the same age as Campbell I shouldn’t have even been thinking about that. Olivier Roy is in the same rough age bracket – so we really need to find someone closer to stepping in right now.

    Any other goalie prospects that come to mind to you?

  • bazmagoo

    Just watching TSN, they make some valid points about Nash. Notably that Columbus will have many more options in the off season. If they don’t get a seriously great deal at the deadline, what is their motivation to trade Nash? He’s under contract for another few years so what’s the rush?

    Hemsky for Bernier – get it done Tambi!

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    The good to very good prospects (Paajarvi, Omark) are just passing through. I doubt either spends a lot of time in OKC next season.

    Omark is a free agent after this season. Do you think he is going to sign with Oilers after what they did to him this year? I very much hope so but doubt it.

    • Omark is a RFA after this season and I see no reason why he wouldn’t sign here again. Would’ve been another situation after last year, but the Oilers haven’t exactly handled him bad this year and Omark knows that. Not their fault Omark got injured and not the organizations fault the team did play good without him in the beginning. He had to be sent down, just bad timing with his injury. He know he would’ve been recalled if he hadn’t been injured.

  • go-oil

    Do they have enough centers in OKC with O’Marra gone? Is this an opportunity for Ryan Martindale to get called-up to the AHL? His development doesn’t seem to be going very well in the ECHL.

    • Well.. there’s Green, Arcobello, House, CVV who I suppose will be the regulars now + Pitlick who’s somewhat of a extra center.. and then there’s also probably Lander and Petrell going into the playoffs. Dunno what the contract says on Kytnar but they’ll manage.

      With that said, I’d also love to see Martindale get a couple of games with the Barons. Seemed to do rather good last time around and I’m still cheering for him.

  • O.C.

    If the Oilers focus on point totals for callups, then they have a problem. They have a system teaching coach in th AHL. The talent is being put into situations they need develop.

    If OMark Hartsky Pitlick were one line, they would pile up tons of points They should probably get the odd chance together, but full time wouldnt develop them, or others. They are on three separate lines.

    And as long as OKC is first, the coaching system is considered correct.

  • O.C.

    The trade opens up room for Lander and MPS to be sent down for the playoff run. That’s all.

    The Oiler prospect pool is very poor at the AHL level. Time for the worship of MB Stu to simmer down for a bit.

  • O.C.

    I believe Omark will be recalled to fill the opening Hemsky’s departure will create.

    also, if ST doesn’t take the opportunity to dump Khabby’s contract, then the Oilers need a new GM this off season.

  • magisterrex

    Heard an AHL coach (Barons?) on the radio yesterday talking about the learning curve for junior guys entering the AHL. Something along the lines of young men running headlong into vets fighting to keep their spots so they can put food on the table for their families, from guys who would rip their eyes from their sockets to win.

    I wouldn’t get too wound up in lower production from some top prospects on their first year with the Barons. They’re getting sheltered as the team wants to go deep in the playoffs, and the vets aren’t willing to just let them take their spots on the roster. Next year will be an important one for many of them.

    • bazmagoo

      I agree, the overall assumption seems to be that it’s easy to make jumps from junior to the pro’s. The competition level is higher than any of us can imagine unless you’ve played at this level before.

      The Oilers need to be patient (within reason) with all their prospects otherwise it can and will come back to haunt them.

  • go-oil

    LT,

    you say that Hartikainen has been rather stagnant in his progress this year. what do you think the reason for this is and specifically where has his growth stalled?

    i seem to recall that he was a bit of a low starter in his career already. is there a bit of a letdown considering his time in the NHL last year and given the big clubs need for a power forward did he look past the little things he needs to do and just assume he was a on the team to fill that role.

    • Lowetide

      There are only a few reasons for a prospect to stall. injury (he’s had them), opportunity (the Barons are deeper this year at his position) and effort (coach Nelson did say it was tough for him to adjust when getting sent down in the fall).

      Hartikainen (and Omark and Paajarvi) have missed enormous opportunities this season. Phil Cornet has put himself into the equation and that shouldn’t happen based on Hartikainen’s skill set and the Oilers need for same.

      I think he’ll get there, but he needs to close well.

  • jonrmcleod

    I would be happy to get rid of Khabby for nothing. The Oilers already have enough goaltending prospects in the system (Bunz, Roy). They can just sign a cheap free agent next season to back up Dubnyk.

  • Lowetide

    Yup Move Bulin if you can, Danis can do just as good of a job in my opinion. Edm has a lot of centers and trading O’marra just made sense given their need for a puck mover on the backend. I think O’marra is pretty close to playing a 4th line center in the NHL but that won’t happen in Edm not with Belanger here for another 2 years and O’marra likely getting a 1 way contract this summer.

    Bob sounded pretty convinced yesterday that Lander would go to OKC for the remainder of the season and try to push them far in the playoffs likely on a line with Omark but MPS would stay up. It makes me think that they want to try a line out with Omark, Harti, and Lander to see if they can get some chemistry going and then next year you will likely see that as your third line on the big club with Omark jumping back and forth between the second line with Smyth or MPS.

    I think this is also a reason they trade Hemsky because they are just getting too many bodies that are NHL ready. Not to mention when RNH is back we will have 5 centers as Gagner has really stepped up recently and deserves to stay at center.

  • RexLibris

    I’ve been saying for awhile that the trade of Hemsky needs to bring back more forward prospects, specifically on the wing, and that the Oilers should ask for talents like Jurco and Tatar from Detroit.

    Around the league there is this perception that the Oilers are bursting with forward talent and sorely lacking in defense.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. We have three can’t-miss stars at the forward ranks, then two good support players in Gagner and Paajarvi, and we are on the verge of trading away our third support player in Hemsky. Omark may be a suitable replacement in the short term for that slot, but after that the talent and depth drops off a cliff most nights.

    Horcoff and Belanger are decent 3rd and 4th line centres, Jones, Smyth, Petrell, Eager, and Hordichuck are all good bottom pairing forwards, but when someone from the top line goes down or struggles promoting one of them often doesn’t translate well. And the prospects we have in the AHL in Pitlick, Hamilton, and Hartikainen are all too early in their development for a call-up to do them any good.

    The Green and Keller signings were good, and Cornet’s play this year was a saving grace, because it gave the organization people to bring up who could plug and play without risking any damage to their developemental curve.

    Going into the draft, at this point I am operating on two assumptions: that we pick 2nd overall, and that we have acquired another 1st round pick in the Klefbom territory. With those two picks I would target forwards. Grigorenko and one of Galchenyuk (although I doubt he makes it past Washington’s pick), Faksa, Girgensons, or perhaps Aberg. Gaunce would be nice, but I expect he’ll be this year’s Mark McNeill.

    As for our forward prospects playing right now, I would say that those three are long-term projects and it is a credit to Tambellini that he hasn’t moved any one of them in a trade but has chosen to wait and bide his time.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I do want Belanger moved at the trade deadline. The two major questions I have is:

    Does the trading of Ryan O’Mara signal that that isn’t going to happen?

    If he was on the last year of his deal I would think many teams would be chomping at the bit to get the strictly face-off/defensive specialist. With 2 years left though does it become a lot harder to trade him and is he less of a commodity now because of it?

  • A-Mc

    LT:

    What do you think of the guy we got in return? His NHL appearances he went 33gp 1-12-13pts, 11 of those points were in 22 games in the 09-10 season where carolina finished 24th overall with 80pts (So, .5 ppg defense on a not-so-good team). he has only played 3 games in the NHL since and was 0-0-0-0. That looks pretty good from an offensive-defense perspective.

    Do you suspect we’d see our new addition in the NHL at some point? or will he be an AHL lifer?

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    So, counting all I would like to see Khabibulin and Belanger moved along with Hemsky…but there is one more d-man I want to see moved on, Alex Plante.

    So it’s not only the older players, but a prospect would also be available. I would give up on him and trade him for his value now…not saying that he won’t make it and be a fine defenceman in the future. It’s always guesswork and one never knows, but that would be gamble I’d make in this case. Too slow in footspeed AND development for my liking, and being passed by others as a prospect. You’ve got to give up something to get something and I could live with that.

    Plus, next year we will have to make room for all of the junior-aged defencemen that we will have to sign from 2010, or that might be ready from 2011’s draft. There could be quite a few bodies at the position next year, and I really like their prospects.

    • Your making it sound like you just want to move people for the sake of moving people. Belanger is having an off year, yes, but I have no doubt that he’ll bounce back and bring value to his contract of 1.75m. I mean what are you really going to get for him that would make the Oil win that trade. Look at our PK this year compared to last, he is a huge part of that, without him Horcoff is taking 1600 faceoffs again while running back and forth to the bench for d-zone draws.

      • Mike Modano's Dog

        It’s not trading for the sake of trading if you are receiving good value in return…but I thought that was obvious. If you want good things coming back then you have to be willing to give up players with value to get them.

        All things being equal I would rather have what those players would get us in a trade.

  • why do people want to trade knabibulin,he’s our best goalie ,i am not sold on dubnyk,lets see what he can do before we trade our starting goaltender and if you trade him ,who replaces him that is better?

  • justDOit

    So we’ve b!tched and complained about not having a defensive minded center who can win faceoffs for several seasons now. Now that we have one, everyone is complaining how he doesn’t have enough goals.

    • justDOit

      Belanger can still fill a vital role, it’s just that Renney’s not using him he right way. Should not be on the power play and not centering skill players on the 3rd line…

      • justDOit

        Agreed, to a point. Belager’s history says that he is capable of putting up some points while playing that role, so playing with talent, then doesn’t seem to be that much of a stretch. Either way, it’s not Belanger’s fault, and to run him out of town won’t help this re-build one bit.

        Burying him on the 4th line won’t help the team, because he needs to be on the ice for more critical situations than a 4th liner typically plays.

        And as for him being on the PP, I am a little perplexed by this as well, but can you really argue with the success that the Oilers are enjoying on the PP?

  • justDOit

    “Any other goalie prospects that come to mind to you?”

    Main need is a 1 or 1A for Dubnyk. A quick look at Shuckers “DIGR” study of 10/11 (h/t rich winter) tells you that those under $1M contracts in any given year can get you a lot if you can find the right guy:

    Goaltender (Rank) DIGR (Save %)
    Cory Schneider(2) .929 (.925)
    Devan Dubnyk (8) .922 (.916)
    Corey Crawford (9) .922 (.920)
    Brent Johnson (11) .921 (.924)
    Ondrej Pavelec (16) .918 (.915)
    Tuukka Rask (17) .918 (.918)
    Sergei Bobrovsky (18) .917 (.917)
    Semyon Varlamov (19) .917 (.922)
    Michal Neuvirth (20) .916 (.916)
    Brian Boucher (22) .916 (.916)

  • OilLeak

    Hartikainen’s season is troubling, I would have expected him to be close to a PPG player in the AHL. His shoulder must be giving him problems, especially with the type of physical style that he plays.

    Now, if he struggles next season, then the alarm bells can start going off.

  • OilLeak

    NATHAN

    Sure those goalies may help Dubnyk as a 1 or 1a through the season but what have any of those goalies done in the playoffs.NOTHING.Why not just draft a goalie someone like Malcolm Subban

  • The Duke of Hafford

    Outside of the young guys on the team, the Oilers are lacking forward prospects. Do you think the Oilers would be able to get Schenn out of Philly. Maybe starting with something like Hemsky and Smid and maybe a prospect like Musil?

    • The Duke of Hafford

      I would still rather have a 1/2 defense pairing and a legitimate #1 goaltender.Especially with Eberle/RNH/Hall as the # 1 line.2nd,3rd and 4th line player are easier to come across via trade or free agent.Also what has Schenn done in Philly he couldn’t even make the NHL out of juniors unlike
      His older brother.